Today we’re delighted to welcome Guerilla Cricket ‘waffler’ Annie Chave to TFT. She caught up with Somerset Director Of Cricket Andy Hurry and skipper Tom Abell at Taunton last week. There was only one thing on their collective minds: Saturday’s big Lord’s final against Hampshire.
On Saturday 25 May, Somerset take on Hampshire at Lords for what looks likely to be the last ever Royal London One Day Cup Final. On the face of it, it’s just another one day final, but to Somerset, fourteen years without a trophy, it means a whole lot more.
The RLODC has been running since 2014 as a replacement for the ECB’s 40-over tournament. It has been a hugely popular competition, with enthusiasm peaking this year as part of the run-up to the World Cup in England.
In this context, it’s hard to believe that next year the ECB will be downgrading the competition by making it into a development tournament. And it will only be played at grounds not among the ‘privileged’ eight selected to host their new showcase competition, The Hundred. Many supporters will feel its loss. There are suggestions that those going to the final should wear black armbands as a protest.
This year Somerset began their RLODC with four consecutive wins, followed by three losses, including one against Hampshire. Their chances of getting to the final looked to be wobbling until they beat Surrey to come third in the group, and then to reach the final with impressive wins over Worcestershire and Notts.
Hampshire on the other hand had a much smoother campaign, losing only to Essex. They look in great form and pose an ominous threat, even with the omission of Vince and Dawson.
I caught up with Andy Hurry, Somerset’s Director of Cricket, after their recent Championship game with Surrey last week. He sounded upbeat about his team’s prospects despite the big challenge ahead:
We’ve had really good form with the bat, the guys have been taking responsibility at the top of the order and setting up games for us. And with the ball we’ve always had good starts because we’ve been putting the ball in good areas and letting the pitch and the ball do the work for us”.
And does he think Somerset will win the final? One hundred percent he does:
On our day we are unbeatable. And even if we’re close to being at our best that’s going to be a really exciting game. We can put any team under significant pressure. I’m convinced that any team that’s drawn us in a knockout phase has feared us and I’m sure Hampshire are feeling exactly the same way.”
Although Andy is sad to see the end of the Royal London One Day Cup, he’s still excited about next year’s 50-over games at Taunton:
One-day cricket in this country has been incredibly exciting. There’s been real euphoria about white ball cricket that’s been led by the performance of our national side. But next year we’ll still have the opportunity to play in front of big crowds and we’ll entertain. I appreciate that the 100-ball is coming in, and I appreciate that the 50-over game will be perceived as a lesser competition, but I believe that it’s going to be a really exciting time for players that aren’t involved in The Hundred.”
Time will tell whether he’s right, but Somerset certainly have a real opportunity to finally get the one-day silverware that has eluded them since 2001. And he is confident that, under the “outstanding leadership” of Tom Abell, they will achieve that goal.
As for Tom himself, he’s equally confident about his team’s prospects:
I just can’t wait for it. With the team we’ve got I back us against anyone. The final is going to be a huge spectacle and there’s no one more desperate than our changing room to win this competition.
Although Somerset lost to Hants earlier this summer, he’s confident lessons have been learned:
We were disappointing with the bat in that game. We didn’t give ourselves a chance. But we took lessons about how we should try and build our innings and give us the best chance in the last ten overs. We just weren’t able to do it against Hampshire in that particular game.
There was also one big positive to take out of the experience:
It’s best to get those kinds of poor performances out of the way sooner rather than later. You don’t want to perform like that at a final!
Somerset have a strong side for Saturday, with a great mix of experience, such as Peter Trego & James Hildreth, and talented youth like Tom Banton. Speaking of Trego, Abell says:
He often performs on the big stage, so hopefully we can all pull together in the final and give ourselves the best chance. We also have the huge talent of Azhar Ali. We’re very confident in Azhar’s skill with the bat, and it’s great to have his bowling up my sleeve.
But Tom saves his real praise for the Somerset supporters, where he’s keen to point out that:
The backing and passion associated with Somerset cricket certainly doesn’t go unnoticed. We want to win it for them and give something back.
Echoing the thoughts of an earlier Somerset captain, looking back to 1976 in his recently published book Rosey: My Life in Somerset Cricket, Brian Rose remembers the mass of Somerset fans at Sophia Gardens to watch them play Glamorgan. “The cider”, he wrote, “had been flowing and the atmosphere was electric’”
Well, this Saturday, expect cider, expect electric, and expect regret that the Royal London Cup is about to end.
Note from ed. There are still some remaining tickets for Saturday’s final on 25th May. Adults from £25 and kids from just £10. You can buy tickets here. Go and enjoy what could be the last ever domestic 50-over finale at Lord’s. And if you fancy wearing a black arm band, you’ll hear no complaints from us.